One of the surprises in the new Star Trek movie is the importance of the role of Christopher Pike, the Captain of the Enterprise. And for this key part, JJ Abrams chose veteran actor Bruce Greenwood, who is no stranger to portraying strong leaders. In our exclusive interview, the actor talks about how his Pike is different, his relationship with Kirk, life on the set, and a particularly uncomfortable scene, and more. [interview contains spoilers]
Interview with Bruce Greenwood
TrekMovie: What is interesting about your character is that even though it was originated by another actor, there was only the one episode. So did you find it was a little easier for you compared to the other guys, as you had a lot more freedom to work with?
Greenwood: There is less of Hunter’s Pike in the history, but having said that, and you know this better than anybody, once part of Star Trek, it is indelible. Whatever imprint you make can’t be undone. I went back and looked at Pikes dilemma as face by Hunter and then I realized it is very different than the dilemma that my Pike faces. Having said that, they are both tremendously passionate people. The risk I was taking was with Kirk and not with my own future per se.
TrekMovie: What I was most impressed with, in regards to both your portrayal, and the script, is that in the past when you have Kirk in a film, other Captains seem weak so that Kirk would look cool. In this film, your character was the quintessential leader and Captain and Kirk was really only headed into that. Did you talk about that and how you were setting the standard?
Greenwood: Yeah. To make preceding captains less capable only diminishes Kirk at the end of the day, right? To speak of his father in these glowing terms and to be less myself would not make sense either. And I am not the first captain you see in the movie, and that captain [Robau] is phenomenally powerful. There is so much gravitas to Faran [Tahir]’s performance. They didn’t shy away from any of that.
Pike in command of the Enterprise in "Star Trek"
TrekMovie: You said you looked back. Obviously you made this role your own. But what were some of the things you decided to carry over from Hunter’s portrayal? Maybe some nuances?
Greenwood: It is more informed a sensibility, an impassioned sensibility, then picking behaviors. So for me to reveal ticks that I borrowed would first not be the truth, but I wouldn’t want to do it even if I had because I wouldn’t want to be judged for poor appropriation. So I didn’t go back with the eye to take some mannerisms an export them into my take. It was more a broader kind of view of the passion with which he approached his dilemma, and the single mindedness of that passion.
TrekMovie: In the last decade or so, you have played a lot of leaders – sub commander, the President…
Greenwood: A couple of times. [laughs]
TrekMovie: It is sort of becoming your thing…
Greenwood: We’ll see. I have done a fistful of those — so got to be careful now.
Greenwood as JFK in "Thirteen Days" and the President in "National Treasure: Book of Secrets"
TrekMovie: But while you are playing Pike, does suddenly a little Kennedy slips in? Are these roles informing each other?
Greenwood: Perhaps I am more comfortable than I might have been five years ago. Because some of the territory is familiar, in terms of belief in oneself.
TrekMovie: So is that you? In this film Pike seems to always know what to do right away and never thinks about things…
Greenwood: I don’t think that is fair. He makes the decision. He is not afraid to make the decision, but it is not that he doesn’t think. He thinks very very carefully and then makes the decision, because he has to.
TrekMovie: Fair enough. There is one decision he makes in the film that still has me scratching my head and this is probably a question for Bob [Orci], but when Pike makes Kirk first officer and Spock is like ‘are you joking?’ Did you ask Bob or JJ why is he doing this? Did it make sense to you?
Greenwood: It made sense to me. What I intuit about Kirk’s ability to command can hardly be put into words. It is just that sense that the kid is incredibly rough and has a terrible bedside manner and can be abusive as with the scenario. I was not happy with the scenario [Kobayashi Maru]. We shot something in which I said to him as we are walking away after we get the emergency call, we shot something where I say "cheating is not winning." I had a long conversation with JJ About that and because I felt it was important for Pike to let Kirk know that this was not evidence of a perfect mind — this was not particularly impressive. On a technical level yes, but in terms of the lesson that he was meant to learn, it was more like what Spock says. Having said that, he has a sense of what it is going to take to prevail that is informed by his gene pool.
Clip: Greenwood’s Pike sees potential in young Kirk and asks him to enlist in Starfleet
TrekMovie: You have described this role as a father figure and some of these actors are quite young, like Anton is a teenager. What was the environment like on the set? Did the father/son thing flow over, or when the cameras turned off you stopped being Captain and you were just one of the guys snapping towels with the rest of them.
Greenwood: I think it is easier for an older guy to think he is one of the guys snapping towels [laughs] and it felt that was as we were just a bunch of guys, and a girl, and we had a great time together. We played a lot of chess, played a lot of guitar, sang a lot, hung out at my house. So for me it felt that way. You will have to ask the kids if there was any sense of ‘this old cat is alright, but he still is an old cat.’
TrekMovie: You were playing the guitar?
Greenwood: A lot of people were. Anton, me, Pine.
TrekMovie: You were one of the few to work and hang out with the Romulans…
Greenwood: Well I spent a few days flat on my back with a scorpion being forced down my neck, so you can’t really call that hanging out.
TrekMovie: Eric [Bana] said that when he was doing those scenes he passed out one time, were you there for that?
Greenwood: I was so slarred on that table, that if he was hyperventilating or needed some oxygen, I was so zoned out, I might have not have noticed. It was painful on that table. We were there for two days.
TrekMovie: So when you read the script and you see how you are Captain and throwing commands around, and then you get to the….
Greenwood: Lying on a table having an earwig shoved down your throat part? You think ‘ah that will change.’ It’ll be sushi and a conversation, that you end up losing. But it is not going to be a scorpion and you are not going to get whipped, but no. It was hideously uncomfortable.
TrekMovie: So that thing wasn’t done with CGI?
Greenwood: It is a real thing and they dropped it down my throat…it was horrendous. It was a creature that they created, and it had a solenoid in it so it would wiggle and twist and writhe and it was sharp and pokey. And they did it a bunch of times and would yell ‘cut’ and pull it away from my mouth and I felt that we were getting to the end of the coverage and I said to JJ "you are not going to drop it down my mouth?" and he was like "really?" and I was "f–k yeah – let it drop, it’s not going to kill me"…It f–king near killed me. But I would do it again in a heartbeat.
TrekMovie: So people are already talk about the sequel…
Greenwood: I am ready to throw down. I am open to it and gather they are as well.
TrekMovie: They are?
Greenwood: I am encouraged to think Pike will be returning.
Greenwood looks forward to playing Pike again in a sequel
Up Next – JJ Abrams
For Thursday, the day of the early premiere, we will present the JJ Abrams chat in our TrekMovie’s weeklong interview series. We talk about the buzz, deleted scenes and more…including Shatner. Stay tuned .
Other final pre-movie exclusive interviews at TrekMovie:
ROTFL, does anyone who works on this site ever sleep? Wait…I should be sleeping also! xD
Nice job on keeping us all informed! Kudos! One more day to go and I can see the movie!
Wow…I loved Thirteen Days.
i chose not to read this one. what happens to pike it one of the only mysteries left for me.
but i will say that i’m impressed with what he brings to the role of pike.
Cool. Another guy who clearly cares about his character and gives it some real thought. This old cat is alright.
Should Pike end up in the famous beeping chair in the sequel?
“We shot something in which I said to him as we are walking away after we get the emergency call, we shot something where I say “cheating is not winning.”
This is the 4th or 5th time I have heard of something being shot that probably won’t make the final cut.
Anthony or anyone, any word yet on if these will be in a Special Edition DVD release? I mean, a Director’s Cut would be superb, but just something that assures us we aren’t hearing about all these great scenes that we’ll not see for 10 years.
Ha, anyone else notice the number of cut-scenes we are hearing about?
I see potential in Captain Pike. Having Kirk as First Officer is something that can be explored in the sequel.
Maybe the second one could depict the events that put Pike in the chair.
…Pike will be returning. .. EXCELLENT!!! =D
…This is getin’ Exci-tin’!!! ;-)
Speaking of that chair, do you remember the South Park episode “Preschool”? The kids kindergarten teacher is burned in a fire that Stan Kyle Kenny and Cartman started and she gets put into the same chair that Pike had in the Menagerie. Then the chair’s battery dies while she’s crossing the street. Funny as hell.
Greenwood is slicker than whale poo on an ice flow!
^10 Yes I remember that episode. At the end she is asked a question “who caused the commotion, the bully”? by the cop and she beeped twice ( which meant no)and the cop replied Yes, Yes and took the bully kid back to jail. It was hillarious. Anyway It will be fun tonight seeing a scorpion being shoved down Pikes throat. I can see Kirk in the sequel being his first officer as Spock is his science officer. In other words a story arc like Star Trek 2 thru 4 with Kirk comming Captain in the 3rd film.
Um, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I was under the distinct impression that Kirk becomes Captain at the end of THIS film….
This is not Star Trek – its No Trek. Ive seen the movie yesterday and it is terrible. No canon, no story, no message and completly action-overloaded. The film is exactly this, what i expect to get by the siamese scrapwriter Orcikurtzman and Lord of Action JJ Abrams. Abrams an his team ignored almost everthing they could ignore beginning with the USS Kelvin, which ist already a part of the new Abramsversum with boiler room und Star Wars laserblaster and therefore non-canon. There are so many minconsistencies (Delta Vega, Orcis Stardate for the 24th Century, enterprise insignia on Kelvin, Klingon “Warbirds”………..) that cannot be explained with a new timeline. The Story is fast, stupid and very illogical, the homur is officiouce and feels like a skit. Star Trek died in 2005 with “These are the Voyages”. Abrams Trek is an ordinary sf-action, that could also take place into the new star wars episodes, the transforer universe or cloverfield. I can`t understand, why Mr Nimoy was involved in this crime. It must be the money.
Come on JJ throw us a Bone here, a picture of the Ship, or what the Bridge will look like, the uniforms Something!!………Oh wait I was Caught in a time warp from last Year, Sorry.
So how long until this movie comes out??
Huh…….well okay then.
Bruce Greenwood is amazing as Pike, it would be great to have him back in XII…
Excellent interview! I would love to see more of Pike as long as Bruce, one of my favorite actors, keeps this character for a sequel.
Great work, Anthony!
Interesting interview, thanks Anthony!
I watched the movie yesterday and Bruce Greenwood’s performance and the new Pike is one of the not so many things I like about the movie.
14–should ignore you but you used the word Siamese which is no longer a country but still, your intent is racist. And “officiouce” — you might mean officious — but even if you do there is no definition for it that could possibly apply…
One more thing. Why knock an actor for doing a role for money. This isn’t community theater.
IMAX tonight!!! 7:00 edt. F***ing can’t wait!!!!
Loved the film when i saw it this afternoon but loved it more the second time when i saw it this evening.
Anthony, these interviews have been excellent, and I must say that they’ve given me a deeper appreciation for the new cast. Well done!
@19: I meant this with “siamese”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjoined_twins, because Orci and Kurtzman write every script together as would they be one person.
Captains seem week –> captains seem weak
I should also add thanks for a great site Anthony.
KNut, don’t take this too personally, but you are completely in the wrong. You don’t know Star Trek from Little House on the Prairie. Go troll somewhere else, sir.
Anthony, I will echo the above, your efforts at bringing us factual news, items of interest and interviews are better than anything else out there. When is the next issue of Nacelles magazine coming out, by the way?
I’ve been a fan of Greenwood’s since his short-lived UPN series “Nowhere Man”. He’s a terrific actor that brings a sense of nobility to his roles. Can’t wait to see him tonight @ 7pm! It’s almost here!
Sometimes I wish we could ban people like Knut. I dont mind people with differing views, but racists who are trolling and making crap up piss me off.
Apparently this film is a 0 or 1 in this case (Binars!) there is no room for bending. And being racist?? Besides, nothing besides something like this will revive Trek. Batman Begins was no masterpiece, but look what we got in the second installment?
His grammar and punctuation is bad AT BEST. That doesnt lead a lot of credibility to the argument.
Hey guys – made the story in my newspaper about the movie!
That’s me with malf-my face covered up…haha!
Not to defend a troll, but I don’t think he was attempting to be racist. Please see the following article regarding the most famous pair of conjoined twins.
Jumping the “racist” gun is a bit reactionary, and should be saved for those true morons who are racist. Not to say Knut isn’t a true moron after reading his review of the movie, but a true moron of a different facet.
#32 No, he’s just trying to insult the writers, by describing them in terms used to describe handicapped or disabled people.
Surely there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure next time he’ll refer to them as crippled, peglegged, brain-damaged, etc. (sarcasm)
It may not be racist to make fun of the handicapped, or to use them to make fun of others; but it is equally immoral.
But he’s just trolling.
#on Bruce. Captain Pike in XII? But… (jaw drops)… how?? Well, it is science fiction, so I’m sure there’s a way. I too would like to see him save that ship of cadets while they’re boarding a class-J shuttle (off or onto the recently staffed Enterprise?) and in the process when a baffle plate is about to go…. oh no!!! heavy dose of nuclear reaction generated electrons (delta rays! a real phenomenon)… and you know… the rest of the story.
I have to agree with # 22 I don’t comment alot, I mainly just read. But I just want to bring a few things up. To #14 Gene Later said after the original series came to an end that he regretted not having all of the people in Star Fleet have the famous delta shield.
Every one in Star Fleet had the delta shield in the movies. I also read an interview with Nichelle Nichols years ago where she said that she played it as if her character had and attraction to Spock, go back and look at the first episode they appeared in she is clearly flirting with him. Take a look for yourself in the episode “Man Trap”.
Once again I just want to say thank you to everyone that works on this site.
I come here everyday to get my Star Trek info, I have it linked on my I Phone. I love having a place to come to talk Star Trek.
In closing if you are not coming to this site to have a good time and enjoy Star Trek , you probably should not be coming.
Peace and Long Life to everybody
Great interview. Skimmed past some spoilers.
Ten more hours.
perhaps a boring offering from berman and braga would have suited you better.
but the days of bland trek are gone thank god
If you remember in the episode “Court Martial”, officers from other starships were wearing the delta shield also.
Just been to see the film and I was very impressed with Greenwood as Pike. He (And Fahir) have done a great job of eradicating that whole “Every other captain apart from Kirk/Picard/Sisko/Janeway/Archer is an imcompetent fool” curse. I have always wanted to see more of Pike, and now we get to. I could not be happier.
Just to say the film is not PERFECT, there are a few flaws in certain places, but these have all been covered by other, more competent reviewers. But it is a great ride, fun, funny, exhillerating and there were a few true “goosebump” moments.
And for the “Big-E” herself, I was pleasantly surprised at how good she looks. She is not an exact replica of the one from TOS, but I have to be honest, if they did that, it wouid look out of place.
I went with my gf and a friend and she is so not into “Star Track”, but afterwards she was very impressed with what she saw. Now we need to see if the rest of the movie going public feel the same.
Viewing number two is tonight in Liverpool! YAHOO.
That was a great interview. Trek Minus 9 hours and 25 minutes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Slightly OT, but I had to share this…
I listen to sports radio WEEI out of Boston every morning while getting ready for work. In one of the segments, they talk about stuff happening in the news. Well, imagine my surprise when they mention the opening of Star Trek tonight and they quote “Mr. Anthony Pascale of trekmovie.com” regarding some fans’ concern about canon.
Of course, being a sports radio station, they had to call us trek fans “losers” which made me roll my eyes.
But hearing Anthony’s name and trekmovie.com mentioned on the radio made me smile :-)
Read this: You’ll love it, explains everything.
Dude, this movie comes out like today!
Thanks so much for everything guys!
Means that Pike survives?
I am seeing it tonight during an HP/Intel convention/party starting at 10pm where they give away new processors and boards and laptops and ending at 2-3am after being treated to Star Trek. It’s called Star Trek ’09 and I am f**ing PSYCHED!!!
#14: well KNUT, this is your opinion… and I thank you for it… I’ll be seeing the film tonight and expect to disagree with you…
It’s nice to know Pike survives.. I wonder if the movie is a pre-Talos IV story?
… and if Kirk is not THE captain of the Enterprise in the film, perhaps this will be his jumpboard serving aboard the Farragut as he was intended.
so I guess I’ll find out if Kirk is just “acting” captain in this film. again, we shall see.
I guess it wouldn’t be a true Star Trek movie / Wrath of Khan rip-off without some horrific creature being dropped down a bodily orifice for cheap thrills and gross-out factor. I’m disappointed.
Going to see the film tonight, though. IMAX tickets and all that.
Everyone has their canon obsession. I’m curious to know how or why the Enterprise’s arrowhead mission patch became the Starfleet logo without Kirk’s historic five year mission.
The mission patches of other ships, starbases, Memory Alpha, etc., were etched in stone canon. Bob Orci mentioned on this board that he was a fan of these, but the whole element seems to have been written out.
Any ideas? Bob?
Friday evening is booked: Star Trek with a lot of *non-trekker* friends, and then some true italian pizza. Now, thank you Mr. Abrams, Orci and crew for the thrills. Trek means optimism, open mindness and acceptance of new, different things.
You’re not the only one who feels that way.
As for the delta symbol, in my opinion every artist has the right to “bend” the rules in favor of his own vision. Having the delta as the Starfleet logo is much more iconic from an artistic point of view. I like the idea very much, it’s not an issue for me.